Zafar Brooks most likely has an office with a view at Hyundai Motor America and one would probably rarely find him there. As the company’s director of Corporate Responsibility and Diversity Inclusion, he is often out and about, making sure that the brand means much more to the public than just an affordable, quality product. Anyone walking with him throughout his day might see him talking to personnel at Children’s Hospital about how Hyundai can help with cancer research, through Hyundai’s Hope On Wheels (Helping Kids to Fight Cancer), or talking with Mothers Against Drunk Driving about driver safety for instance.
“I’m very proud that I serve in this role [at Hyundai],” said Brooks.
“Corporate Social Responsibility should be in every company’s business mix.”
Brooks was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. He graduated from Fisk University with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1986. He moved on to Webster University, where he earned a master’s degree in finance, and from there, he earned a certificate in strategic marketing from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
His first stint in the auto industry began when he was an undergrad in 1986 with the Ford Motor Company as a regional sales manager.
“They came to the university to recruit for their management training program,” he recalled during a recent interview with the Sentinel.
It was an opportunity he decided not to pass up, he said.
“I had a wide range of career opportunities [with Ford],” Brooks said.
He left that company in 2006 as the head of U.S. franchising activity. He started with Volkswagen that year as head of its West Coast Regional office, subsequently becoming the head of national marketing for the German car company’s U.S. and Canadian operations. His arrival at Hyundai came with a plethora of experience, however, it seemed to be his wisdom about a company’s relations with its consumers beyond the bottom line … that brought him to the position he’s in today.
“Corporate Social Responsibility is not really a new discipline. It’s something that companies have always done,” Brooks explained during an earlier interview.
“Today’s notion of CSR is just a progression, but in the old days you used to think about community relations, where organizations understood the intrinsic relationship between companies and their communities by giving back to local organizations as a way to make a contribution. It was a great way to build employee morale by partnering with communities and by sharing with the community what their organizations stood for. If you look at CSR today as a discipline, it really has moved forward and connected to the overall business
“CSR is an understanding that there is a healthy relationship between a company’s reputation and its business philosophy—that the association with philanthropic activities enables an organization to increase its owner potential, its owner loyalty and improve sales as it gives the company an opportunity to demonstrate its social values to the public. Again, I would argue that corporate social responsibility is not an either/or alternative of corporate best practices. CSR supports the bottom line. Data indicates that between 8090 percent of the public would rather do business with a company engaged in socially or environmentally responsible goodwill, as well as do business with a company that is making a difference …”
This year, Brooks fostered a new community relationship, when he helped usher in Hyundai’s involvement in the Taste of Soul festival. The goal: to get people thinking about how they could get involved in making where they live a better place. The project: Each person had to make a video, talking about how they felt their community could improve. The prize: a brand new 2018 Hyundai Sonata.
It was the company’s first time with TOS and Brooks said he was inspired by the event itself.
“Watching the work that [Danny] Bakewell Sr. has done, has inspired me as an Angeleno,” he said.
“To watch him make this a better place for so many people, has inspired me while watching it from afar.”
Brooks is also a family man. In the midst of all of his corporate responsibility, he is ever-mindful of the family he has at home.
“I always look forward to spending time with my children and my grandchildren,” said Brooks, who has been married for almost 30 years.
“I have a wonderful job,” he said during a previous interview.
“But that is the hardest part of the job. It is a very difficult task, because there are so many outstanding organizations that are doing good works all around the country. It makes me feel good to go home at night having worked with so many fantastic organizations.”